Possible Penalties NBA May Impose on Donald Sterling
I think a defacto suspension is likely in the short run, but I do think the NBA will undertake to pressure Sterling in some way to sell the team. The article states that since the NBA does not enjoy an anti-trust exemption that Major League Baseball does, and such they may not be able to simply yank the team from him the way MLB did with Marge Schott, or most recently Frank McCourt, but there is a precedent of the NBA pressuring an owner to sell the team, and that was when Ted Stepien was persuaded to sell the Cleveland Cavaliers in the early 1980’s after inept management rendered the team a cellar dweller and threatened it’s financial health. The difference with Stepien is that his main problem was incompetence, though he had his own incident of shocking racial stupidity*, and he had only been an owner for three years when he sold the team. Sterling has owned the Clippers for more than 30 years.
3. Put pressure on him to sell the team. This is where things really get tricky. A league source said it’s unlikely the NBA would try to compel Sterling to sell the team he has owned for 30 years because of the possibility of a vicious legal battle that could cost the league millions and result in Sterling keeping the team should he prevail, not to mention create a years-long distraction as the litigation plays out.
But the league and Sterling’s fellow owners could certainly pressure him to sell the team by publicly campaigning for change. Several owners have already spoken out in protest of Sterling’s alleged remarks and could make things uncomfortable for him by continuing to address the issue through social and traditional media until he sells the team. One sensible successor would be Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, who Sterling disparaged in his alleged remarks about blacks to a female friend.
Another avenue to get Sterling to sell the team would be for his wife, Rochelle, to file divorce papers that would require her husband to pay her 50% of community assets per California law. Divorce proceedings involving former San Diego Padres owner John Moores forced him to sell the team in 2012.
*Shortly after he bought the Cavaliers, he actually said that the team’s roster should have a minimum of six white players at all times, figuring that his most white fan base would come and support a team that looked more like they did.